There are many articles on the internet on how to improve a resume for job seekers. As a JBA recruiter, I evaluate resumes all day and I’ve seen it all. When I got started with JBA, I began to notice resume preparation trends. Now, I can tell a good a good job candidate from an average job candidate within only a few seconds just by looking at their resume. If you, as a working professional, don’t take the time to prepare your resume with care and consideration for how your resume will be perceived by recruiters and employers, there is the likelihood that you will be passed-over for a good job just because your resume looks bad or is filled with even one spelling error. In the job market, it happens every day. I see qualified and talented people losing out on high paying jobs because of small errors in their resume. It’s sad, but avoidable.
Here are 5 insights from our massive experience as a recruiting team and over 30 years in the recruiting field. These are basic edits and should be applied by every job seeker to improve their resume. Our passion at JBA is matching the best talent with the best employers, fueling long-lasting careers. We know what makes you stand out as a candidate, and we know what employers want to see. Your resume should say “I’m worth gold!” So let’s give your CV a little polish, shall we?
1. It Had Better Be Pretty
This statement is not just fluff. Everyone loves things that look good and a pretty resume is like a silent invitation to recruiters and employers to jump in head first. As a pro recruiter, I want to be wowed with that first impression. We all do, and if you wow us from the start, you have give yourself a huge advantage over the lazy candidates with ugly and boring resumes. You could be the best talent for a high paying job and not make it past that first glance. Employers and recruiters see a lot of resumes; you want yours to be the one we look at and say, “I want to know more!” So, dazzle us with pretty!
What makes a pretty resume? Let’s start with organization, proper spelling and grammar. An unorganized resume dotted with misspellings, uneven margins and heading errors could say to an employer that you really don’t care about the work you do. There is a principle with resume creation: How you do anything is how you do everything. Meaning, if your resume sucks and looks bad, your work will suck and be bad.
You would never go into an interview wearing shorts, a t-shirt, disheveled and smelling like yesterday’s leftover egg sandwich, would you? I hope not! Remember, your resume is your first impression, and it should look sharp. Don’t give recruiters and employers reasons to overlook you. Give them reasons to hire you and a sharp resume is the very beginning of the hiring process.
To be sharp and smart, follow these guidelines:
- Resume headings need to make your work experience clear, simple and obvious. Check out the many great online resume templates and formatting examples. Resume Genius is one such site that offers free resume designs that are simple and effective
- Use bullet points instead of paragraphs for your work experience descriptions. Paragraphs are great for novels and articles, not necessarily for resumes
- Check and recheck spelling and grammar. And then check again. Be 100% certain every word is spelled correctly before you send it out to recruiters and employers
- Have someone else read your resume, give you impressions, and look for errors you have missed. Second opinions are valuable when preparing a pretty resume
2. Steer Your Resume in the Direction of a Specific Job, Job Title or Career
The position you want should steer your resume towards a specific job your are looking for. Then, every point from the very top of the page should show how you are the right fit for that specific job.
If you want a position as a mortgage underwriter, for example, and you have also listed experience in law, list those skills that would be assets in mortgage underwriting. Even unrelated experience can offer skills you want to highlight. Make sure, however, to develop more bullets with descriptions in those work experiences that match with the position you are seeking. Unrelated skills can hurt you instead of helping you.
A good objective or resume summary statement can be a powerful steering tool from the start. Summaries and snippets help to describe who you are quickly, your experience, and what you bring to the table in a burst of enthusiasm.
If you are unclear about the career you are seeking or how you will be an asset to an employer, you won’t even have a chance of getting hired. Job candidates need to be clear about what job they want.
3. List Accomplishments, Not Tasks
An employer, or your friendly recruiter, needs to see more than the tasks of the positions you’ve held. We want to see you. Think of each bullet point under your professional experience as an opportunity to show your accomplishments.
Showing how you made a difference to your previous employers is proof of what you can do for them, and how you and your skills fit their needs.
4. Be Clear with Dates
We look closely at dates listed for each of your previous positions. We also question inconsistencies. Be clear with your timeline of experience and be prepared to explain gaps or changes in a field. Date inconsistencies are an immediate resume killer! For you, they are like shooting yourself in the foot. Ouch!
Everyone has “life” happen. Life happens. And most people change jobs and even career fields several times in a lifetime. Covid makes working even more unpredictable. We understand that. I read one resume recently that had 9 different jobs listed for one calendar year. Whew! There are explanations and, most often, good lessons from career shifts. Make them work for you, not against you!
5. Watch Your Wording
Employers and recruiters find you by word searching. We are proud that, at JBA, we do our due diligence to find alternative search terms to find the right matches for you and a potential employer. We do not use static bot-searches that immediately eliminate resumes based on how many times a key term is mentioned. We have a team of creative individuals searching for the best talent.
However, even with our team and superhuman savvy, if the terminology of the desired position is not in your resume, it is unlikely we will see you. And that is sad.
Whenever possible, use keywords from a specific job description or refer to the description of a specific position you’d like to have. Those specific terms can highlight how your experience matches the needs of your potential employer. And highlighting those skills in your resume will get you far on the road to an interview.
These are really only the basics. As I mentioned, every job seeker should use these fundamental tips to improve their resume. I can say this from experience: if you apply these 5 basic tips when preparing your resume for your next job search, I will read your resume. I might even get you that $100K job you want! Wouldn’t that be nice?!